If you Google the words "lose weight fast," literally dozens of crash diets, detox teas and diet pills will appear in your web browser. Sadly, most if not all of these methods are both unhealthy and ineffective ways to shed unwanted pounds.
According to the Obesity Action Coalition, fad diets aren't for the faint of heart. Not only can they slow your metabolism, but they also increase your risk for developing gallstones, losing lean body mass and experiencing malnutrition. Not to mention that you most likely will not lose weight fast or — even if you do drop a dress size — you'll most likely be unable to maintain your weight loss.
"Extreme diets where you're cutting out entire food groups like carbs should be monitored by a doctor or a professional," says Cara Clark, a certified clinical and sports nutritionist in Orange County, California. "This is not usually good for most people. My favorite thing to tell them is if you're cutting carbs to lose weight, expect to be tired and dumb. Our brains use carbs as fuel. They are essential to our health."
So, rather than resorting to a starvation diet, try incorporating these nine healthy habits into your lifestyle to lose weight fast instead.
1. Eat More Often
People often mistakenly cut too many calories when trying to lose weight fast. Instead of depriving yourself with a starvation diet, Clark advises her clients to combine carbs with fat and protein and eat more frequently each day.
"My approach is to tell them to eat real foods," she says. "Combine carbs with fat and protein. These are called macros. Eat every three to four hours and get five different colors of fruits and veggies a day. You cannot eat too many veggies, so load up every meal!"
The complex carbs from veggies will not only help you feel full longer. They'll also help you lose weight fast, flush out excess water weight and make it possible for you to avoid the tiresome task of counting calories.
2. Drink More Water
About 65 percent of the human body is made up of water, so it's important to replenish the water you lose each day. According to an August 2016 study in the Annals of Family Medicine, conducted among 10,000 adults aged 18 to 64 over a three-year period, drinking plenty of water and eating water-filled fruits and vegetables significantly improves your ability to lose weight quickly, especially if you are overweight or obese.
3. Eat a Variety of Fruits and Veggies
A healthy diet is key to weight loss. At the supermarket, shop primarily in the produce section for a rainbow of colors to fill your plate. This is the simplest and most effective way to maintain stable blood sugar as your body burns through fat.
"If you're losing weight by burning fat, you can't lose it too quickly," says Clark. "You will keep your body in fat-burning mode by following these principles: Eat every three to four hours. Always combine your macros. Eat real food. Eat five different colors of fruits and veggies a day and drink at least 80 ounces of water a day."
4. Avoid Processed Foods
We all know that potato chips and soda taste great going down, but eating processed foods and refined sugar can often make you feel sluggish and tired in addition to gaining unwanted pounds. The best way to lose weight fast is to stick to whole foods like our ancestors ate. A good rule of thumb: If you think your great-grandmother wouldn't have had access to it, don't eat it.
5. Try High-Intensity Workouts
They say that abs are made in the kitchen, but that doesn't mean you should forgo the gym just because you've started eating healthy. In reality, working out is right up there with good nutrition if you want to lose weight fast.
One of the most effective ways to torch calories at the gym is by incorporating HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts into your regular exercise routine.
"Even after you've completed a high-intensity workout, your body continues to burn calories for several hours," says Desi Bartlett, a certified personal trainer in Los Angeles. "Every time your heart rate goes up, it has to come back down. You actually become more fit the more times your body has to recover. With HIIT, you increase the intensity quickly then have a short recovery time, so your body has to work harder to recover multiple times. This allows you to burn more fat and calories."
6. Cut Back on Sugar
The World Health Organization recommends that people consume less than 10 percent of calories from refined sugar per day. In reality, the average American consumes a whopping 83 grams of sugar — more than triple the recommended daily amount.
Eating too much sugar has been linked to an increased risk of tooth decay, type 2 diabetes, cancer and, of course, obesity. So, although it may seem daunting at first, cutting back on sugar is a simple step you can take to improve your overall health and lose weight fast.
Did you know that just one teaspoon of sugar contains 16 calories? And that comes with absolutely no nutritional value. So, rather than consume empty calories, why not try trading steel cut oats for sugary breakfast cereal, plain yogurt with fruit for sweetened yogurt or black coffee for your daily caramel Frappucino?
7. Embrace 'Everything in Moderation'
Although eating candy and drinking alcohol has the potential to derail your weight-loss goals, you won't have to swear these treats off for good. In fact, according to Clark, you can absolutely still expect to lose weight fast without giving up your favorite indulgences. "I personally eat dark chocolate almost every day, if not daily!" she says. "I drink wine at least once or twice a week."
Clark is careful to eat and drink in moderation, which helps her to maintain a healthy lifestyle without depriving herself. "I believe in moderation. Alcohol and sugar are the top foods that obstruct weight loss, but you definitely don't have to give them up totally!"
8. Set a Timeline
Although everyone's body is different, Clark recommends making a timeline for yourself to encourage yourself to lose weight fast. Setting an end date to reach your ideal weight is a great way to motivate yourself to stick to a healthy eating plan. It will also help you stay on track when you're tempted to dig into a calorie-laden dessert on date night.
"I love when my clients have an event that they are wanting to feel great by," says Clark. "Establishing a timeline is so important. Otherwise, the urgency is lacking. Losing weight is 75 percent feeling motivated and 25 percent actually having the right plan."
9. Find Your Motivation
If you're having trouble filling your plate with fruits and veggies, take this into consideration: Losing weight doesn't just affect your appearance; it can also put a pep in your step.
"The number one reason to lose weight is to increase energy," says Clark. "I've never met anyone who has said they don't wish they had more energy. Making goals that are for health and not vanity are important because that's what makes a lifestyle different than a diet."
If you're having trouble sticking to a healthy eating plan, remind yourself of all the reasons you decided to start losing weight in the first place. "Think of your why's," says Clark. "Our why's keep us on the right path more than the weight loss itself."
What to Expect
Losing weight fast is definitely possible, but dropping too many pounds too quickly won't give you long-lasting results. Instead, aim for an attainable goal, which can best be determined by consulting in person with your doctor or a registered dietitian.
That said, you should realistically expect to lose about a pound a week. "One to two pounds a week is best and most sustainable," says Clark.
She suggests giving your regimen a 10-day trial period. "If you haven't started seeing and feeling results by then, there's something missing," she says.
Methods to Avoid
Although it may be tempting to look for a quick fix for your weight-loss woes, it's important to avoid fad diets to lose weight fast. According to a study published December 2016 in Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health, yo-yo dieting may actually sabotage your weight-loss goals because the brain interprets these diets as short famines. Instead of helping you shed pounds, they cause your body to fire signals to your brain to store more fat for future shortages, unintentionally derailing your attempts.
"The yo-yo affect can be really hard on your body," says Clark. "It damages many of your organs as well as your digestive system. I think we can all agree that we want to be healthy. Focusing on overall health is the ultimate goal."